Tag Archives: Annie Harper

A Cure for the Common Grump: a Guest Post by Erin Finnegan (Standing Under the Mistletoe with Interlude Press: Day 3)

Standing Under the Mistletoe with Interlude Press: Day 3

A kiss can lead to so many unexpected things…especially one that takes place under the mistletoe. Join authors Killian B. Brewer, Pene Henson, Erin Finnegan, Lilah Suzanne, and Lynn Charles as they explore the most tantalizing literary kisses and their lasting impact in books in this new series, Standing Under the Mistletoe with Interlude Press. Every day from December 4th to December 8th, HEA USA Today, The Book Smugglers, LGBTQ Reads, All About Romance, and The Mary Sue will feature a new article from each author of the LGBTQ+ holiday themed collection, If the Fates Allow (out now from Interlude Press).

Buy it: Interlude * Amazon * B&N * iBooks * Kobo * Smashwords * Book Depository

A Cure for the Common Grump By Erin Finnegan

I’ll admit it: I love grumps.

In real life, give me friends with kindness and humor. But in between the pages, I want flawed characters, protagonists who are forced into a revelatory moment. And to make my reading complete, please make them tormented, and just a bit obtuse when it comes to love.

There’s one thing that can set the wheels in motion. You know it; I know it. It’s a kiss, or the promise of one, or even the moment that demands one but it somehow slips away, sending my beloved, brooding grump on a path of romantic self-discovery.

But until that moment, and sometimes after it, please, let them be grumptastic.

You can find them brooding on any bookshelf, from literary classics to science fiction (Han Solo? Space Grump.) to contemporary YA.

One of my favorite books is Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient. The consuming affair that unravels lives and may change the course of war isn’t every reader’s cup of tea, but this poetic and tragic story of the affair between cartographer and a woman married to a member of his expedition team in pre-World War II Egypt is filled with delicious angst.

Almásy is your classic distant, brooding character in the pre-war passages of the book. But his post-war recollections of the relationship are transcendent; the moment that he and Katharine end their brief affair would seem to demand a kiss, but it’s absence serves as a painful accent point to the moment.

Now there is no kiss. Just one embrace. He untugs himself from her and walks away, then turns. She is still there. He comes back within a few yards of her, one finger raised to make a point.

“I just want you to know. I don’t miss you yet.”

His face awful to her, trying to smile. Her head sweeps away from him and hits the side of the gatepost. He sees it hurt her, notices the wince. But they have separated already into themselves now, the walls up at her insistence. Her jerk, her pain, is accidental, is intentional. Her hand is near her temple.

“You will,” she says.

I try to treat my books with respect—no cracked spines, thankyouverymuch—but I may have thrown my copy of The English Patient against the nearest wall when I first read that scene…in a good way. Those two prescient words serve in lieu of a kiss that is desperately left wanting.

Frustrating? Yes, intentionally so. A kiss-that-isn’t and leaves you wanting more.

The classics are filled with angsty, romantic protagonists: Darcy, Gatsby, and of course Heathcliff, among the royalty of romantic literary grumps.

Let’s be clear, Heathcliff is no gem. He’s brutal, emotionally abusive. He’s also tortured, haunted, and, it would seem against his wishes, deeply in love with Catherine Earnshaw. Their love story isn’t resolved in a kiss—it happens on her deathbed, after all—but it is cemented by it. Heathcliff is haunted by Catherine’s death—emotionally and eventually, literally.

These characters are often male, but I would like to see more women in the literary grump club. It plays counter to romantic stereotypes and opens the character up for some wonderful tics and traits.

In my 2016 novel Luchador, Lola—a champion boxer-turned-luchadora in love with a ambitious burlesque dancer—served this role. I loved turning the tables on this trope. Lola was tough and threatening, but in the presence of Bonnie “Fanny Vice” McCreary, those rough edges smooth. Love heals, folks.

Which is the point of my Grump 2.0, Jack Volarde in Last Call at the Casa Blanca Bar & Grille, a short story in the Interlude Press holiday anthology, If the Fates Allow.

Jack, a political consultant, isn’t so much grumpy as he is driven. It’s not ambition that fuels that drive, but a sense of loss that has numbed his senses—until a bartender forces his hand. Jack has no interest in finding someone new, but he soon finds himself into a slow dance in the shadows of Christmas lights.

Javi paused and angled his face to Jack’s. The kiss was brief, comforting, and gentle. Jack hesitated, but didn’t pull away.

“Mistletoe,” Javi said, smiling. “I had to.”

He laced a hand through Jack’s hair, and kissed him again. It was more determined, more certain—a cool, electric rush that started at Jack’s lips and rushed to his fingers and toes. It felt like life itself.

A kiss can represent so many things: a beginning, an end, a revelation, or a moment of healing.

And there are other kisses, the ones that bring both resolution and the promise of something new. Think of first kisses, of those eye-opening moments of “Oh.”

Think, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.

A kiss, and kissing in general, is a bit of a theme in Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s beloved coming of age story. Ari and Dante talk about kissing quite a lot: what they expect from it, whether they should try it themselves, the differences between kissing girls and kissing boys.

But this book keeps (spoiler alert) the kiss that matters to the very final sentences of the book. The thing you know must happen, the game-changer, that 358-page build to a simple moment between friends who are clearly destined to be so much more, plays out in a simple, straightforward moment as Ari, reluctant in love and sometimes grumpy in friendship, accepts that he is in love with his best friend.

“Try it again,” I said. “Kiss me.”

“No,” he said.

“Kiss me.”

“No.” And then he smiled. “You kiss me.”

I placed my hand on the back of his neck. I pulled him toward me. And kissed him. I kissed him. And I kissed him. And I kissed him. And I kissed him. And he kept kissing me back.

Could the discovery of the joy of love play out more simply, or more believably, than a kid thinking in wonder, “I kissed him”?

And in that transcendent moment of revelation, love proves itself the cure for the common grump.

About If Fates Allow, out now from Interlude Press: During the holidays, anything is possible—a second chance, a promised future, an unexpected romance, a rekindled love, or a healed heart. Authors Killian B. Brewer, Pene Henson, Erin Finnegan, Lilah Suzanne, and Lynn Charles share their stories about the magic of the season.

About Erin Finnegan’s story, Last Call at the Casa Blanca Bar & Grille

As the one-year anniversary of his lover’s death rolls around on Christmas, Jack Volarde finds himself at their old haunt—a bar called the Casa Blanca, where a new bartender helps him open up about loss, and see brightness in a future that had grown dim.

Erin Finnegan is a former journalist and a winemaker who lives in the foothills outside Los Angeles. Her novel Luchador was named one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2016, and along with her 2014 debut novel, Sotto Voce, received both a Foreword Reviews INDIES Book of the Year award and a PW starred review.

Connect with Erin: Website | Twitter | Facebook

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New Releases: December 2017

If the Fates Allow, ed. by Annie Harper (1st)

During the holidays, anything is possible—a second chance, a promised future, an unexpected romance, a rekindled love, or a healed heart. Authors Killian B. Brewer, Lynn Charles, Erin Finnegan, Pene Henson, and Lilah Suzanne share their stories about the magic of the season.

“Gracious Living Magazine Says It Must Be a Live Tree” by Killian B. Brewer
Determined to make his first Christmas with his new boyfriend magazine-perfect, Marcus seeks the advice of lovable busy bodies, the Do-Nothings Club. When he learns that his boyfriend, Hank, may have ordered a ring, Marcus’ attempts to transform his home into a winter wonderland get out of hand.

“True North” by Pene Henson
Shay Allen returns to her hometown in Montana for the holidays with her best friend Devon with the intent to return home to L.A. by New Year’s Eve. Instead, the weather traps them in the small town, but the there’s a bright spot: her old crush Milla is still in town.

“Last Call at the Casa Blanca Bar & Grille” by Erin Finnegan
As the one-year anniversary of his lover’s death rolls around on Christmas, Jack Volarde finds himself at their old haunt—a bar called the Casa Blanca, where a new bartender helps him open up about loss, and see brightness in a future that had grown dim.

“Halfway Home” by Lilah Suzanne
Avery Puckett has begun to wonder if her life has become joyless. One night, fate intervenes in the form of a scraggly dog shivering and alone in a parking lot. Avery takes him to a nearby shelter called Halfway Home where she meets bright and beautiful Grace, who is determined to save the world one stray at a time.

“Shelved” by Lynn Charles
When library clerk Karina Ness meets a new patron, lonely business owner, Wesley Lloyd, she puts her own love life on hold and begins a holiday matchmaking mission to connect Wes with her uncle Tony.

Buy it: Interlude Press

Winterglass by Benjanun Sriduangkaew (5th)

The city-state Sirapirat once knew only warmth and monsoon. When the Winter Queen conquered it, she remade the land in her image, turning Sirapirat into a country of snow and unending frost. But an empire is not her only goal. In secret, she seeks the fragments of a mirror whose power will grant her deepest desire.

At her right hand is General Lussadh, who bears a mirror shard in her heart, as loyal to winter as she is plagued by her past as a traitor to her country. Tasked with locating other glass-bearers, she finds one in Nuawa, an insurgent who’s forged herself into a weapon that will strike down the queen.

To earn her place in the queen’s army, Nuawa must enter a deadly tournament where the losers’ souls are given in service to winter. To free Sirapirat, she is prepared to make sacrifices: those she loves, herself, and the complicated bond slowly forming between her and Lussadh.

If the splinter of glass in Nuawa’s heart doesn’t destroy her first.

Buy it:  Apex * Amazon * Kobo * iBooks * Smashwords

Sea of Strangers by Erica Cameron (5th)

The only way for Khya to get her brother back alive is to kill Varan—the immortal ruler who can’t be killed. But not even Varan knew what he was doing when he perverted magic and humanity to become immortal.

Khya’s leading her group of friends and rebels into the mountains that hold Varan’s secrets, but if risking all their lives is going to be worth it, she has to give up everything else—breaking the spell that holds her brother captive, and jeopardizing her deepening relationship with Tessen, the boy who has been by turns her rival and refuge since her brother disappeared. Immortality itself might be her only answer, but if that’s where Khya has to go, she can’t ask Tessen or her friends to follow.

Buy it: Entangled

Cloaked in Shadow by Ben Alderson (5th)

Zacriah Trovirn is concerned with two things in life: hunting and dodging Petrer, the boy who broke his heart.

Heartbreak becomes a distant concern when Zacriah is taken to the Elven capital of Thessolina, where he is forced into King Dalior’s new legion of shapeshifters. But Zacriah isn’t a shapeshifter. In truth, he doesn’t know what he is.

Zacriah joins forces with new friends and they soon find themselves embroiled in a clash between the three Elven continents. With war looming on the horizon, Zacriah must learn to use his latent power to fight and protect those he loves before they are destroyed.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

Tailor-Made by Yolanda Wallace (12th)

Before Grace Henderson began working as a tailor in her father’s bespoke suit shop in Wiliamsburg, Brooklyn, she established a hard and fast rule about not dating clients. The edict is an easy one for her to follow, considering the overwhelming majority of the shop’s clients are men. But when Dakota Lane contacts her to commission a suit to wear to her sister’s wedding, Grace finds herself tempted to throw all the rules out the window.

Dakota Lane works as a bicycle messenger by day and moonlights as a male model. Her high-profile career, gender-bending looks, and hard-partying ways garner her plenty of romantic attention, but she would rather play the field than settle down. When she meets sexy tailor Grace Henderson, however, she suddenly finds herself in the market for much more than a custom suit.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

Freed by Flame and Storm by Becky Allen (12th)

Revolution is nigh, and one seventeen-year-old girl stands at the head of it all.

Jae used to be a slave, laboring with the rest of her people under a curse that forced her to obey any order she was given. At seventeen, she found the source of her people’s lost magic and became the only person to break free—ever. Now she wants to use her power to free the rest of her people, but the ruling class will do anything to stop her.

Jae knows that breaking the curse on her people would cause widespread chaos, even unimaginable violence between the castes, and her caste would likely see the worst of it. Many would die. But to let them remain shackled is to doom them to continue living without free will.

How is one girl, raised a slave and never taught to wield power, supposed to decide the fate of a nation?

(Note: this is a sequel to a non-LGBTQ book, and contains f/f romance)

Buy it: Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Penguin Random House *IndieBound

Right Here, Right Now by Georgia Beers (12th)

Accountant and financial advisor Lacey Chamberlain doesn’t consider herself a control freak. She’s merely a planner—orderly, neat, and content in her tidy little life. When a marketing firm moves into the empty office next door, the loud-music-playing, stinky-food-ordering, kickball-in-the-hall staff make Lacey crazy.

Marketing expert Alicia Wright is spontaneous, flies by the seat of her pants, and lives in the moment—all the things Lacey is not. She’s also gorgeous, thoughtful, and seems determined to make Lacey like her.

They say opposites attract, but for how long? And is that really a good idea?

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

Outside the Lines by Anna Zabo (18th)

Buy it: Riptide

Three Sides of a Heart, ed. by Natalie C. Parker (19th)

These top YA authors tackle the much-debated trope of the love triangle, and the result is sixteen fresh, diverse, and romantic stories you don’t want to miss.

This collection, edited by Natalie C. Parker, contains stories written by Renee Ahdieh, Rae Carson, Brandy Colbert, Katie Cotugno, Lamar Giles, Tessa Gratton, Bethany Hagan, Justina Ireland, Alaya Dawn Johnson, EK Johnston, Julie Murphy, Garth Nix, Natalie C. Parker, Veronica Roth, Sabaa Tahir, and Brenna Yovanoff.

A teen girl who offers kissing lessons. Zombies in the Civil War South. The girl next door, the boy who loves her, and the girl who loves them both. Vampires at a boarding school. Three teens fighting monsters in an abandoned video rental store. Literally the last three people on the planet.

(Note: this is not an LGBTQ anthology, but a significant number of the contributions are. Representation includes but is not limited to lesbian, bisexual, genderqueer, and polyamorous.)

Buy it: IndieBound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository